Meet our Formula 1 expert
Describe your career in 5 words.
I can do it in six!
‘Right place at the right time’
You have been working in Formula 1 for over 40 years. What has been the biggest change you have seen in the sport in this time?
There are two changes that revolutionised the sport.
The first is the broadcast deals at the end of the 1970s which gave Formula 1 the platform to become a truly global sport. Within a couple of years, the sport became regularly available to sports fans around the world. It was these unique broadcast partnerships which allowed the sport to take-off and is why it is still so popular today.
Secondly, technology. The technological brilliance of the teams hasn't just changed Formula 1 but has had a lasting impact on a number of other industry's such as aviation, healthcare and pharmaceuticals. In order to win the team's are having to constantly push technological boundaries which has fostered a rate of advancement which is unrivalled in the entirety of the sport industry.
There has been so much change but one constant has been that the drivers build the show not the teams. Aside from Ferrari, who remain the major force in motorsport with its infamous 'tifosi' fans, it is the drivers who the heroes of the sport. From Stirling Moss, James Hunt and Niki Lauda to Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and now Lewis Hamilton and a Champion in the making, Max Verstappen. These were, or are, the type of driver who sells-out events and inspires millions to tune-in.
There is a lot of talk about a new era of Formula 1 following the acquisition of the sport by Liberty Media Group. What do you think the sport can do to grow its global fan base?
Formula 1 is at a point where it needs to evolve to grow its fan base around the world. Liberty Media Group has the energy, the money and the geography to make the sport event bigger and better. There are still huge opportunities for growth, particularly in the United States, and I expect the new leadership to seize this.
Do you have a favourite-ever sponsorship campaign? One where a brand has delivered something that you’ve seen and has stuck with you.
The Marlboro sponsorship of BRM, McLaren and then Ferrari has been the most succesful and long-standing program in motor racing. Phillip Morris' famous tobacco brand's original partnership with the BRM team, brokered in 1972, was a pivotal moment for not just Formula 1 but the commercial landscape of sport as whole. It demonstrated to brands the global exposure and influence that could be generated through sponsorship. In my mind Marlboro is the pioneering sponsor that stands out above all others, even today.
What do you think other sports could learn from Formula 1?
Formula 1’s unique selling point is that it takes place every two weeks around the world. It is the regularity and global nature of the sport that makes it the size and shape it is today. Other sports looking to grow their fan base could pick up on this consistency of display throughout the world. Cricket has started to do this through global Twenty20 competitions and there is no doubt that it is reaping the rewards of a growing fan base through its broadening appeal.
What is your most memorable moment in sport?
I have two that really stand out.
Muhammad Ali, fighting then as Cassius Clay, beating Sonny Liston in 1964 to become heavyweight champion of the world was one of the biggest upsets in sporting history. Clay, a young punk who no one thought had a hope, beat an established fighter who everybody thought was unbeatable. And he did it in some style! We were listening on the radio and had to wait a week to see a clip of the black and white footage of the historic bout.
I’ll also never forget the moment the Australian Cricket team beat the West Indies in 1995, a first test match series win against them for 20 years. It was the end of a phenomenal era of West Indian cricket with players like Gordon Greenidge, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and Viv Richards and the start of a brilliant one for Australia with the likes of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and the Waugh twins. Again, I listened to this match on the radio at home in Switzerland and it was incredibly exciting.
When not at work, where would we find you?
Anywhere but a golf course. As Billy Connolly said, the reason he doesn't play golf is because he didn't want to be dressed by his mother!
You would most likely find me at the opera or a concert.